Lyric Song

Charles Strong has always loved music of all kinds, but jazz in particular, and he dedicated this new series to musicians.  In the late fifties the Beat Era reigned in San Francisco, and the Studio 13 jazz band, composed primarily of students, played at the California School of Fine Arts, affirming the conceptual equivalence of this music to the intuitive moves of Abstract Expressionism. 

Lyric Song, Paul Robeson, American Black, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 70" x 59"

Created in a multiplicity of media on a variety of supports, including handmade paper, this series was defined by elliptical or "corpuscular" lozenge shapes tumbling or floating across fields of color of dissimilar depths.  Outlined or silhouetted within the rectangular surface, these lozenges appear to be visual translations of musical notes.


Lyric Song, Fugue for J.S.B., 1977, acrylic on canvas, 94" x 69"

Jazz great John Coltrane, actor Paul Robeson, and classical cellist Pablo Casals, among others, are honored in this series...


Lyric Song, Four Notes for Trane, 1975-76, ink and crayon on paper, each panel 14" x 10"

Perhaps more than in Strong's other series, the Lyric Song works reveal a broader range of color palette and media; as he explains, "you limit yourself in one way, so don't want to limit yourself in others." 


Lyric Song, Water Music, 1975, hand-made paper 24" x 18"

If music motivates the colorful canvases, it is silence that roars out of the black-on-black paper pieces from 1997-78: black ink washes variously over flat black fields, against the lighter black background of the paper surface itself, or with spattered gestures bleached into somber, raw expanses of darkness.


Lyric Song, Cluster Song, 1975-76, ink and crayon on paper, 14" x 10"

In contrast, some of the acrylic works are more painterly: lozenge shapes soar out of the fire of Abstract Expressionsim in one 1977 painting; in another, the lozenges are constricted and encircled, caged within the cold depths of cobalt and cerulean blue. (1)


Lyric Song, Music for My Eyes, 1979, acrylic on canvas, 93" x 69"


Lyric Song, Chain Gang, 1976, hand-made paper, 29.5" x 25.5"



 Lyric Song, A Catalan's Tone, 1976, hand-made paper from recycled clothing, 29.5" x 25.5"


(1) Fire and Flux, An Undaunted Vision: The Art of Charles Strong, by Jo Farb Hernandez and Paul J. Karlstrom, with an Introduction by Steven A. Nash